From September, Nigerians will able to fly direct to New York from Lagos for the first time in seven years, following a wet-lease partnership between South African Airways (SAA) and Nigerian Airways.

The airline's service to New York was suspended in 1993 after the US Federal Aviation Administration deemed security at Lagos airport was too lax.

In July Nigerian authorities narrowed down the choice of partner on the route to SAA and Ghana Airways following the lifting of the US ban on flights between the two countries in December last year.

The agreement will see SAA fly three times a week to Lagos where passengers from Johannesburg can disembark and take on those bound for New York. From October the frequencies will be increased to five a week.

SAA operates seven flights a week from Johannesburg via Ilha do Sal in the Canary Islands to New York.

Debt-ridden Nigerian Airways, which is being restructured before the airline's privatisation, has a similar joint venture agreement with British Airways. This was signed in October, and sees BA operating six services a week between Lagos and London on behalf of the Nigerian carrier.

SAA says that in addition to supplying the aircraft and flight crew, as well as help with marketing the service, it will begin selecting for training Nigerian cabin staff, who will eventually make up half of the cabin crew on the Lagos-New York leg. The service will be operated under Nigerian's WT flight code.

SAA executive vice-president William Meaney estimates the Nigerian market on the New York route at about 250,000 passengers annually.

SAA believes it won the contract with Nigerian Airways because of its codeshare agreement with Delta Airlines which will broaden Nigeria's reach into the USA.

Source: Airline Business